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Automania/Repair and Maintenance


by Bob Hagin

Q. I recently received a flyer on a product that claims that it can save thousands of dollars in engine maintenance and I'm enclosing a copy for your inspection. It's used every 15,000 miles and makes some amazing claims. I have a 1988 Toyota pickup with fuel injection, and an automatic transmission that has only 28,800 miles. I seldom use it on long trips. At the time this system (which costs $70) was recommended to me, my truck was missing a little and was hard to start. I had a minor tuneup done on my truck and had to get a new battery but now it seems to work fine now. I would like to know how you feel about this system.
O.T. Yucaipa, CA

A. The flyer you sent me claims that the product described saves up to 27 percent on fuel, restores horsepower up to 45 percent, reduces exhaust emissions up to 70 percent, extends engine life five times over, doubles vehicle life, and makes the treated car drive 90 percent as well as a new car. It shows two dismantled engines, one that carboned up and the other which is perfectly clean as if the pistons have been polished. Unfortunately the flyer doesn't give an address, a phone number or any kind of independent corroborating evidence that it works any better than regularly scheduled tuneups or using a fuel system liquid additive periodically. There are fuel circuit flushing systems on the market and they are effective in cleaning out varnish buildup in fuel injector systems and carburetors but my experience has been that if the claims made by an automotive chemical are too good to be true (like doubling vehicle and engine life), they are, indeed, too good to be true.

Q. My brother and I just acquired a 32 foot RV motorhome that is mounted on a 1977 Dodge chassis and we are in the process of renovating it for use by the entire family. Dad bought it second hand and ever since he got it, it has made crunching, creaking and popping noises in the area of the front suspension. The noises only occur when it is being driven slowly in a tight turn such as driving out of our driveway and especially if there's a slight bump on one side or the other. We looked under the chassis but we haven't seen anything broken or bent. It also happens when the chassis flexes going over speed bumps but not as much as when it's traveling slowly. Is there a easy way to find the problem?
T.M. Tempe, AZ

A. When it comes to chasing squeaks, creaks and rattles, there's no easy way since I don't know of any way to duplicate the problem in a shop. I suggest that you have a very thorough high-pressure steam cleaning done on the entire chassis, paying special attention to the front suspension and the steering mechanism. The hard part is to climb under and carefully examine each rivet, nut and bolt for signs of slippage. Twenty years ago, many motorhomes were too heavy for the chassis they were mounted on and as a result many of the individual frame sections were put under severe strain. The rivets or bolts would "work" in their locating holes and make noises like those you describe when the chassis flexed. Dodge vans in that era had some trouble with their steering systems too (even the half-ton lightweights), and they have been know to crack around the area of the frame where the steering gearbox is mounted. The cure in this case is to remove the gearbox, have the cracks welded up by a certified welder, rebuild and reinstall the gearbox and have the front suspension realigned.

Q. I was recently bought a pair of Yugos, neither of which runs very well but one is a convertible that I feel will have some collectible value in the future. Is there a club devoted to the Yugo? Where can I buy parts for these cars if I need them?
C.M. Teaneck, NJ

A. I can't find anything on the Yugo since even the country of origin (Yugoslavia) no longer exists. The Yugo was made under Fiat license and perhaps someone who is a Fiat expert can point you in the right direction. The latest Vintage Auto Almanac lists several of them.

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